Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Japan May Cripple Its Casinos

Well-meaning regulations are likely to backfire.
Cash needed.

Cash needed.

Photographer: Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg

When Japan's parliament legalized casino gambling last year, it created a wave of excitement among casino operators and institutional investors. But sensitivities about gambling addiction have now focused the policy discussion on a concept known as responsible gaming. This is industry terminology for programs designed to deter customers with known gambling problems from entering casinos. Although well-intentioned, lawmakers are risking a litany of unintended consequences with these policies.

Casinos could be an economic boon for Japan. By one estimate, they could bring in $25 billion a year in revenue. Yet lawmakers are now considering restrictions that could jeopardize those benefits. These include banning cash machines on casino floors, restricting credit card purchases of casino chips to foreign customers only, prohibiting casinos from extending credit to domestic customers, limiting how often domestic customers can visit gambling houses, and prohibiting Macau-style VIP junkets.